By Christine Fillat | Photography courtesy of Walnut Hill Landscape Company
Perhaps the most romantic pool is one that seems to spill off into the horizon, out into the sea. What could be more delightful than to float in a pool where the edge seems to slip right into the Chesapeake Bay? This waterfront home situated at the mouth of the Magothy River overlooks the Baltimore Lighthouse and beyond. Sailing ships pass by. Beneath the shade of white pine and magnolia trees is a pool deck for lounging and taking turns diving into the deep end.
The thoughtful placement of the pool is due to the skilled eye of Mike Prokopchak of Walnut Hill Landscape Company. “When I saw this view,” states Prokopchak, “I said this is a perfect location for a vanishing edge pool.” Nestled between the house and the property line, the pool is sited one hundred feet from the edge of the Magothy River, as mandated by Anne Arundel County. Siting the pool so close to the home creates an enclave of privacy. Along the property line, evergreen trees enclose the site. The homeowners requested a pool deep enough for diving, so Prokopchak designed a pool in an L shape where divers can dive and swimmers can swim. The pool is concrete, poured in place, with a green glass tile edge. The decks are Pennsylvania flagstone and the coping of the pool is Indiana limestone.
Prokopchak had to elevate the pool area 24″ to accommodate the vanishing edge effect. “We had to form it, and shoot the concrete of the pool,” states Prokopchak. At the waterfront side of the pool form is a weir wall, where the water spills over the edge. “That’s what gives you the illusion that it’s falling into the bay,” says Prokopchak. Flanking the weir wall are two classically shaped custom-made bowls that fill with water and spill over, like the pool. The total effect is very much like the pools of ancient Rome, where sculpture combines with architectural forms for an appealing aesthetic.
Set in the shallow end of the pool is a bubbling year-round spa. Prokopchak placed it here to keep the spa in close proximity to the house for easy access.
Adjacent to the pool and spa is a patio with a massive stone fireplace and a gracefully arched pergola. Custom-built in mahogany, the pergola is supported by wooden columns identical to those in the structure of the main house. The patio is paved with the same Pennsylvania flagstone that lines the pool deck. The stone that forms the base of the house is the same stone that is used for the fireplace and for the retaining walls forming planters and separating the patio from a garage and parking pad.
Garden gates, custom-built of mahogany, further enclose the patio, completing the private environment of the pool area.
In keeping with the simplicity of forms in the space, Prokopchak kept the planting materials to just a few choice selections of trees, grasses, and shrubs that come back year after year and require little upkeep: crepe myrtles, Knockout Roses, oriental fountain grass, switchgrass, and Sweetbay Magnolias. A row of 16′ Cryptomeria trees (a fast-growing evergreen) was planted along the property line for added privacy.
“Pools are a combination of art and science,” states Prokopchak. “Pools are a work of art. You look at it more than you use it, and it gives you a nice view.” The science is in the engineering that goes into creating the environment. With this exquisitely engineered landscape, living becomes a work of art.
By Christine Fillat | Photography courtesy of McHale Landscape Design
In the rolling verdant hills of Green Spring Valley, Maryland, this home promises of fun times with swimming and splashing, evenings of plein air dining, and the crackle of a bonfire. The estate fully integrates a pool and outdoor activity area with the living areas of the house. But you absolutely wouldn’t know there was a pool here, unless you were to walk over to the iron fence on the side of the house and look past the boxwood hedge, into the garden. This is due to the careful consideration of landscape designer Hans Bleinberger of McHale Landscape Design; the placement is seamless and pleasing in its arrangement.
Siting a pool on this property was not without its challenges. Limited by the location of a septic field in the middle of the garden, Bleinberger put the pool as close to the side of the house as allowed by Baltimore County, carving out the slope to accommodate the pool and making it even with the ground level of the house. Such placement has the added appeal of making this corner lot private to the outside world.
Sourced with locally quarried Butler stone, the pool deck, retaining walls, and planters have a quintessentially Baltimore look. Three fountains pour from the retaining wall, as though the green spring were filling the pool from the valley. The shot crete pool is coated with Ocean Blue Pebble Sheen finish, rendering the water sparkling blue. The detail trim throughout is a Pennsylvania bluestone.
At 20′ by 20′, this L-shaped pool is deep enough for diving, with an area for lap swimming. A graceful arc is built into the pool’s shallow area. Placed on axis with the garden gate, it provides the ideal spot for conversation.
The pool deck becomes a patio right up to the base of the house. Here you will find all the accoutrements for enjoying outdoor life. An open porch gives access from the house to the patio. Beneath the porch is a comfortable shaded outdoor living area with upholstered couches and chairs. This turns out to be the favorite area for the family to gather. Just a few steps away, a kitchen island is equipped with all the basic needs for outdoor dining with a refrigerator, grill, and seating area. Between the pool and the house is a year-round spa, situated to protect users from the wind.
A 10′ diameter fire circle, popular with the younger members of the family, sits just outside of the pool deck.
Having once been the site of a private golf course, the estate reaps the benefits of planned landscaping. “There’s a lovely view,” notes Bleinberger. “There are very nice natural features because of this golf course and the way this land had been sculpted, and the trees that had been planted.”
Continuing the established naturalistic plantings, Bleinberger filled the site with vegetation that is colorful and deer proof, such as daffodils, narcissus, daisies, and purple coneflower. Green Mountain Boxwoods add an air of formality. Green Giant Arborvitae, Norway Spruce, and River Birch were the choice trees throughout the property. “We try to use as many native plants as we can,” continues Bleinberger, “I think it’s nice to have a healthy mix. We were trying to get as much diversity as we could.” A pair of American Fringe Trees flank the main entrance coming in from the drive. A perennial area by the fire circle is colorful and full of interesting shapes with Russian Sage, Knockout Roses, and Pannicum (switchgrass).
The full effect of this pool and garden is that of a hidden treasure, exquisite in its design, and perfect for a family ready to share the joy of life al fresco.
From Vol. 6, No. 3 2015
Annapolis Home Magazine